The new year is in full swing, which means resolutions should be as well. Sadly, at this point, many of us will have already given up on them. There are, of course, those who are extra motivated to succeed this year. They will likely last a few more weeks. Yet, in the end, very few people will actually follow through on their New Year’s resolutions for the entirety of the year. Given this inevitability, it almost seems pointless to make them, doesn’t it?
While I’m inclined to say it is, it would be unfair of me to do so. Despite the fact that we tend to abandon our resolutions, I do understand why we still bother to make them. The beginning of a new year forces us to think about the aspects of our lives that we’re not fully satisfied with and what we still want to accomplish. It dredges up all the issues we’ve been trying hard to avoid. For many, the beginning of a new year represents a fresh opportunity; it’s a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again.
What’s the Problem?
Why is it that we fail to live up to our own expectations, then? Why do we give up on our goals and fall back into old habits so easily? The answer somewhat depends on the individual, but the heart of it is fairly simple. When we make a New Year’s resolution, we focus solely on the big picture and forget to consider the day to day aspects. We make vague statements on what we’d like to accomplish and set overarching goals that don’t provide any real motivation.
Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum as well, where we go way over the top with our resolutions. We decide we’re going to change everything about our lives starting on New Year’s Day, or we tell ourselves we have to do whatever it is we want to do every single day without any exceptions. It’s foolish to think this way, and it certainly won’t help us stay committed to our goals.
Too much change at once is bound to become overwhelming. The days will rush by in a blur, and they’ll be filled with missed opportunities and personal chastisement. Each time we fail to stick to any of the changes we claimed we’d make, we’ll slip further and further back into our old habits. Eventually, we’ll be right back where we started, wondering all the while how we managed to fail so miserably.
Day by Day
Changing something about ourselves is a gradual process that can’t be rushed. It takes endless patience and the kind of determination that doesn’t waver after failure. True change happens when we stop focusing on what we want to become and start focusing on how to get there. This means taking things one day at a time.
A wise man once told me that the day you fail doesn’t matter nearly as much as the day that follows. What you do on this day plays a huge role in determining whether or not you’ll continue trying despite your shortcomings. Consider the following scenario:
You’ve decided you want to read for 30 minutes every day. So far, you’ve been doing incredibly well and have managed to stick to your new plan. Then one day, you find yourself in a foul mood and have zero desire to even look at a book. You choose to forgo your half hour for that day and find other things to do. The next day, you wake up feeling bad that you didn’t read like you told yourself you would. You spend the day thinking about your failure, and when the time comes for you to read again, you find that you’ve lost all motivation. As more days go by, you end up reading less and less often until you finally give up altogether and end up back at square one. After all, what’s the point in sticking to a goal you’ve already failed to accomplish?
This tendency to beat ourselves up over minor setbacks is one of the main reasons we fall off the wagon. One small mistake makes it that much easier to come up with excuses the next time around – unless we don’t allow that mistake to get to us. We must consistently remind ourselves that one mistake doesn’t undo all the progress we’ve made so far. If we can manage that, we’ll be more likely to continue trying.
Change Can Happen Anytime
The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, but it’s not the only time we’re allowed to take stock of our lives and make changes. Resolutions don’t work because we try to make too many changes all at once. Attempting to completely overhaul our lives in one day is bound to result in nothing but frustration and failure. We’re more likely to stick to the changes we wish to make if we spread them out over the whole year.
One of the most important aspects of making a change is to remember that it’s okay to fail. If you remember to focus on what you’ve already accomplished and how far you’ve already come, that failure won’t take you down. Take things one day at a time, be kind to yourself, and don’t try to do too much at once. If you follow this plan, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can accomplish than you would have if you tried to stick to your resolutions.